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Challenges of moral theology in the Czech Republic

BY: Jaroslav Lorman 

The Czech Republic, a small country in Central Europe, is regarded as Europe’s most secularized country. In the values study conducted by Libor Prudký, religion was identified as the least important value from a list including politics, free time, family, work and friends. More than 58% of the survey’s respondents described religion as completely unimportant (2007). Religion was on the decline throughout the period of Prudký’s study (1991-2007). The proportion of the Czech population who agreed with the statement “It would be good, if the majority of inhabitants of the Czech Republic believed in God” declined in the same year (2007) by more than 57%.

This situation is challenging for the Czech Republic’s Christians who, according to the population census of 2011, comprise just over 10% of the Republic’s 10.5 million inhabitants. Between the years 2001 and 2011, the number of Czech Christians fell from 3.3 million to 1.5 million. The churches in the Czech Republic therefore face the tasks of the new evangelization and mission. If the results of the ‘failure’ of religion and Christianity in the mentioned value studies and population census are interpreted, the most common explanation is that the language of the churches is inadequate. The traditional Christian churches (except evangelical ‘new’ denominations and religious movements) are unable to persuade the people that their activities have any other purpose than the individual spiritual gratification of their followers (cf. Jan Spousta, 2012).

This responsibility of Christian churches bears also on  Theology, and not least on Moral Theology which, more than any other theological discipline, connects the contents of faith (fides quae) with the ‘way of believing’ (fides qua). This task of comprehensibility and the adequacy of theological and church teaching concerns primarily social teaching and  Christian social ethics, but also fundamental moral theology. Finally is proved the connection between revealed and rational ethics, between theological and cardinal virtues. Finally is disputed the significance of the spiritual dimension of Christian morality, the connection of this discipline with other theological disciplines, which was in the last decades more than neglected on the part of Czech moral theologians.

Symptomatic is the increase of superstitious and esoterical practices, which the social religious studies of Dana Hamplová confirm (2007-2009). The number of adherents of these theories is steadily increasing, while belief in the truth of the official teaching of traditional Christian churches is falling (2009). The reason, Hamplová finds, is the low degree of church socialization of believers and the limited pastoral opportunities available in the traditional churches to make accompanied spiritual experiences. The Czech population can’t be labelled as atheistic. More appropriate is the designation unchurched, a label which can also be applied to many in the countries of Western Europe. The population in this post-communist country shows considerable interest in spiritual ‘items’ (healing, prophecy, amulets…), which has to be cultivated. Among the country’s Christians, a religious chaos and disorientation is typical.

A strong and comprehensible Christian and church identity is needed. In the field of moral theology, a deeper and wider reflection on the spiritual dimension of Christian identity is required, and how this connects with the ‘root-topics’ of Christian existence, such as conversion and worship. The disconnection between  so called ‘autonomous morality’ (Autonome Moral) and  ‘faith ethic’ (Glaubensmoral) has to be overcome in the name of theology’s participation in the vocation of the church, its  pastoral activity, and work of evangelization – as was  emphasized by  pope Francis in his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium 133.